Can we trust influencers?



Since the beginning of social media, influencers never stopped gaining more and more visibility. Having been qualified as an influencer myself, I can’t help but notice the meteoric rise in the number of people reachable on social media. While only 5 years ago, having 50’000 followers was considerable, today, accounts with more than 10’000 followers are legion. Countless brands have benefited from those large audiences as well, collaboration to promote product, services or various causes. The demand is so high that some influencers share advertising campaigns almost daily, sometimes even promoting two competitors in just a few weeks (days?) time. This said, can we still trust those people that we follow on a daily basis because their lifestyle, knowledge or creativity inspires us? 

Social media are a place to share, create and inspire. Influencers are just that: people who are often passionate about sharing their lives, but not only. Some share their ideas, some their opinions and others their artistic projects. And who has never dreamed of making a living from their passion? Let’s take the example of a photographer. He regularly shares his photos on social media and manages to build a small fan base. He gained subscribers who particularly appreciated his work. One day, a brand looking to grow its reach discovers this photographer and decides to contact him. The introduction is done. Time to get to the heart of the topic, namely the terms of the collaboration. Wrong! This is the logical path for many people and yet, there is a crucial question that every influencer (and the brand too, if it has real ambitions) must ask itself: do I like this product (and the collaboration overall) and does it match my values?

If you’re a bit curious, you’ve certainly already asked your loved ones about buying or not a particular product. You trust them. You know their world, their tastes, their standards and their convictions. And those influencers, behind them screen, whom you have certainly never met and who show you what they want, do you trust them? If the answer is no, I totally get you. The market has grown and influencers are now less demanding than ever. They promote products they sometimes received only 10 minutes earlier. Pretty bad for promoting the latest electronic gadget (which should be judged mainly by its lifespan, but that’s another debate). Don’t panic, this doesn’t mean that everyone has turned into a walking shop window. Let’s go through some signs that are more or less easy to identify and that will allow you to know if an influencer is trustworthy.

1. Does he continue to talk about a product or service after his campaign? 

This is a sign that he intrinsically appreciates (or not) what he has been entrusted to promote. In general, once the campaign is over, the influencer is no longer obligated to talk about the product. Thus, if he continues to use it shows that he certainly has a quality object in his hands. The best examples of this issue of real use are certainly smartphones. When you are promoted the latest phone of an Asian brand before posting all its content from an iPhone the day after… Can you believe it? We won’t talk about influencers who promote a product before sending it back the next day… In terms of credibility, it’s not so easy. 

2. Has he freedom in the making of his campaign?

Not always easy to know, unless he explicitly mentions it. Nevertheless, there are obvious red flags that are easy to spot: ready-made phrases, overly technical terms (without any desire to popularize) or personal interests (if he is the founder of the company, one can legitimately have some doubts).

3. Is he consistent in his campaign choices? 

Let’s face it, there is always a margin of credibility, as perfect consistency is complicated, if not impossible, to achieve. However, there is a limit from which we must ask ourselves the right questions. How can you believe a person who praises the hydrophobic merits of a Danish kway only to idolize the latest waterproof of his competitor the following Sunday? So, if I need a kway, which one do I buy? Well, the one who paid the most! Not good in a society where it is imperative, in my opinion, to refocus our purchases on quality rather than quantity…

4. Last but not least, a sign that should tip you off: he shares promo code! 

I know, in some cases it’s fine. The brand is nice, the marketing team wants to see if the campaign works and identify where the orders come from, the customer benefits from it as well, everything is fine. But beware: a promo code can hide a hidden operation, otherwise named as the widespread “affiliate marketing“. What is it? The influencer, in addition to being paid for his campaign, gets a commission on each sale he brings to the brand. Useful to motivate him to talk about the product, less for the customer who wants to be sure that the product is worth its price. 

To conclude, you will have noticed in my lines that there are many cases in which to question the reliability of an influencer’s recommendations. Not only can some of them sell you products of which you are not really sure of the quality, worse, they can sell you out of interest. The digital carpetbaggers. Well, it’s not all doom and gloom in the influencer landscape! So many creators are dedicated to their passions with enthusiasm and offer quality content. They are even more careful about the partners they collaborate with, making the campaign often more profitable in the long run. Social networks and influencers work because of the community… Your brand too! Doing a campaign with a selected influencer will show your customers and his audience that you are a company with strong values that knows what it wants!